Tuesday, 9 June 2015

"On The Road To Find Out" by CAT STEVENS (2001 4CD Box Set and 2008 4CD Reissue Book Set) - A Review By Mark Barry....

“…Listen To The Wind Of My Soul…”

[featuring "Mona Bone Jakon" and "Tea For A Tillerman" from 1970]

Essentially a scaled-down reissue of the 4CD long box "On The Road To Find Out" that came out in October 2001 - this 2008 "Cat Stevens" Book Set repackaging is just as beautifully presented and even more convenient in size. Here are the catty details:

Released June 2008 - "Cat Stevens" (aka " On The Road To Find Out") by CAT STEVENS is a 4CD Book Set on Universal/Island/A&M 0600753028032 (Barcode 600753028032) and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1  - THE CITY - 65:34 minutes:
1. Back To The Good Old Times (Previously Unreleased First Recording from 1965)
2. I Love My Dog
3. Portobello Road
4. Here Comes My Baby
5. Matthew And Son
6. The Tramp (tracks 2 to 6 are from his debut LP "Matthew And Son" - released March 1967 in the UK on Deram DML 1004 (Mono) and SML 1004 (Stereo) and in the USA on Deram DE 16005 (Mono) and DES 18005 in the USA - Stereo mix used)
7. I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun
8. School Is Out (tracks 7 and 8 are the non-album A&B-sides of his debut 7" single released March 1967 in the UK on Deram DM 118 and Deram 85006 in the USA)
9. A Bad Night
10. The Laughing Apple (tracks 9 and 10 are the non-album A&B-sides of his 2nd single released July 1967 in the UK on Deram DM 140 and on Deram 85015 in the USA)
11. Kitty
12. Blackness Of Night
13. The First Cut Is The Deepest
14. Northern Wind
15. Moonstone
16. Come On Baby (Shift That Log) (tracks 11 to 16 are from his 2nd LP "New Masters" - released December 1967 in the UK on Deram DML 1018 (Mono) and SML 1018 (Stereo) and in the USA on Deram DES 18010 in 1968 (Stereo Only) - Stereo Mix used)
17. Lovely City (When Do You Laugh?) - non-album track, February 1968 UK 7" single on Deram DM 178
18. Here Comes My Wife - non-album track, October 1968 UK 7" single on Deram DM 211
19. The View From The Top - non-album track, B-side to "Where Are You" released June 1969 in the UK on Deram DM 260. Mistakenly credited in the booklet as the B-side of "Kitty" (the A-side of Deram DM 156)
20. Where Are You - non-album track, A-side of “The View From The Top”
21. If Only Mother Could See Me Now (Demo) - previously unreleased recording from 1968 - between "New Masters" and "Mona Bone Jakon")
22. Honey Man (with ELTON JOHN) - previously Unreleased October 1967 recording featuring Elton John on Piano and Duet Vocals - co-written with Ken Cumberbatch
23. The Joke - Previously Unreleased September 1970 recording - features the same group that did the backing on Jimmy Cliff's version of "Wild World" which Steven recorded for "Tea For A Tillerman"

Disc 2 - THE SEARCH - 76:14 minutes:
1. Time/Fill My Eyes
2. Lady D'Arbanville
3. Trouble
4. Pop Star
5. Katmandu
6. Lilywhite (tracks 1 to 6 from his 3rd album "Mona Bone Jakon" (debut with Island) - released April 1970 in the UK on Island ILPS 9118 and A&M SP-4260 in the USA)
7. I've Got A Thing About Seeing My Grandson Grow Old - Previously Unreleased mix of a "Mona Bone Jakon" outtake- an alternate mix was used for "The Very Best Of Cat Stevens" CD compilation in 2000
8. Where Do The Children Play?
9. Wild World
10. Sad Lisa
11. On The Road To Find Out
12. Father And Son (tracks 8 to 12 are from his 4th album "Tea For The Tillerman" - released November 1970 in the UK on Island ILPS 9135 and on A&M SP-4280 in the USA)
13. Love Lives In The Sky - Previously Unreleased "Tea For The Tillerman" outtake recorded July 1970 - it's an early version of "Land O' Freelove & Goodbye"
14. Don't Be Shy
15. If You Want To Sing Out Sing Out (tracks 14 and 15 first appeared in the motion picture "Harold & Maude" in 1971)
16. The Day They Make Me A Tsar - Previously Unreleased Demo for the "Teaser And The Firecat" album recorded February 1971
17. The Wind
18. Moonshadow
19. Morning Has Broken
20. How Can I Tell You
21. Peace Train (tracks 17 to 21 are form his 5th album "Teaser And The Firecat" - released September 1971 in the UK on Island ILPS9154 and A&M SP-4313 in the USA)
22. I Want To Live In A Wigwam - non-album track, B-side of "Morning Is Broken" - December 1971 UK 7" single on Island WIP 6121

Disc 3 - THE HURT - 70:26 minutes:
1. Crab Dance - non-album instrumental track, B-side of "Sitting" - a UK 7" single released December 1972 on Island WIP 6152
2. Sitting
3. Silent Sunlight
4. Angelsea
5. Can't Keep It In
6. 18th Avenue (Kansas City Nightmare) (tracks 2 to 6 are from his 6th album "Catch Bull At Four" - released September 1972 in the UK on Island ILPS 9206 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4365)
7. The Hurt
8. Foreigner Suite (tracks 7 and 8 are from his 7th album "Foreigner" - released July 1973 in the UK on Island ILPS 9240 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4391
9. Oh Very Young
10. Music
11. Sun/C79
12. King Of Trees (tracks 9 to 12 are from his 8th album "Buddah And The Chocolate Box" - released March 1974 in the UK on Island ILPS 9274 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-3623)
13. Bad Penny (Live)
14. Lady D'Arbanville (Live) (tracks 13 and 14 are from the album "Saturnight-Cat Stevens Live In Tokyo"- a Japan-Only single LP album released August 1974 on A&M Records GP-228)
15. Another Saturday Night - first released as a UK 7" single August 1974 on Island WIP 6206 and later included on the "Greatest Hits" album released June 1975 on Island ILPS 9310

Disc 4 - THE LAST - 69:05 minutes:
1. Whistlestar
2. Novim's Nightmare
3. Majik Of Majiks
4. Banapple Gas (tracks 1 to 4 are from his 9th album "Numbers" - released November 1975 in the UK on Island ILPS 9370 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4555)
5. Blue Monday - Previously Unreleased cover version of a Fats Domino classic - recorded November 1975
6. Doves (Majikat Earth Tour Theme Song) - non-album track, B-side to "(Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard" released May 1977 in the UK on Island WIP 6387
7. Hard Headed Woman (Live) - Previously Unreleased - recorded 22 Feb 1978 at the College Of William & Mary, Virginia, USA
8. Tuesday's Dead (Live) - as per 7
9. Ruins (Live) - as per 7
10. (Remember The Days Of The) Old Schoolyard (A-side of 6)
11. Life
12. (I Never Wanted) To Be A Star
13. Child For A Day (tracks 10 to 13 are from his 10th album "Izitso" - released May 1977 in the UK on Island ILPS 9451 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4702)
14. Just Another Night
15. Daytime
16. Last Love Song
17. Never (tracks 14 to 17 are from his 11th album "Back To Earth" - released December 1978 in the UK on Island ILPS 9565 and in the USA on A&M Records SP-4735)
18. Father And Son (Live) - Previously Unreleased - recorded at The Year Of The Child Concert in Wembley Arena 22 Nov 1979
19. God Is The Light - from the album "Syuku" (1997) and "Bismallah" (2001)

The presentation is has to be said is gorgeous - a 98-page colour booklet is attached inside the hard back book sleeve - every sepia-page festooned with live photos, publicity shots, a sort of time line of photos across the bottom of each two-page spread cataloguing both his career and personal life, the logos from the early Island albums artwork, stills from the cartoons that surrounded "Tea For The Tillerman" and "Teaser And The Firecat", some lyrics and extensive track-by-track breakdowns. It's beautifully done and a genuine feast for fans.

TED JENSEN and SUHA GUR have handled the superb remasters - mastered from the original analogue two-track master tapes (these are names familiar to those who seek out quality reissues - Jensen and Gur have handled literally hundreds of prestigious catalogues between them). The audio quality is really sweet throughout.

Disc 1 covers his Sixties Deram period - the "Matthew And Son" and "New Masters" albums with some non-album single sides and previously unreleased thrown in. The Stereo impact of stuff like "Here Comes My Baby", the acoustic "Portobello Road" and "Blackness Of The Night" and the lovely "The First Cut is The Deepest" is fantastic - but tunes like "I'm Gonna Get Me A Gun" are insufferable Sixties pap. Disc 1 wisely ends with the beginning of the Island Records period by giving us three rarities in a row. His voice had already changed by 1968 when he recorded the demo of "If Only Mother Could See Me Now" even though it has that Sixties arrangement and not the simplicity of the Seventies stuff. The duet with Elton John "Honey Man" is better than I'd expected but the "The Joke" is the prize here - a strangely 'Rock' tune for Cat Stevens.

Things go stratospheric with Disc 2 when we hit that incredible run of albums in 1970 and 1971 - "Mona Bone Jakon", "Tea For The Tillerman" and "Teaser And The Fire Cat". The audio quality of "Time/Fill My Eyes" is truly gorgeous and what a forgotten nugget it is. The hits start coming with "Lady D'Arbanville" but again its trumped by a forgotten LP ballad - "Trouble". The pretty "Lilywhite" is still hissy (it always was) but it's a gorgeous Nick Drake type melody with those fabulous strings. We're then hit with a cool one - a "Mona Bone Jakon" outtake - the decidedly good "I've Got A Thing About Seeing My Grandson Grow Old". A very clever run of four rarities follows. The first is an outtake from "Tea For A Tillerman" called "Love Lives In The Sky" which turns out to be an early version of "Land O' Freelove & Goodbye" and it's really sweet (beautifully remastered too). But long time fans are going to adore "Don't By Shy" and "If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out" both from the 1971 movie "Harold & Maude" - gorgeous melodies from his best period (especially "Don't Be Shy").

His songwriting capabilities took a leap into space with "Tea" and "Teaser"(probably everybody's favourite albums) and they dominate the rest of this stunning disc. I can remember as a 12-year old first hearing "Sad Lisa" at a friend's house in Clontarf in Dublin - I stood there stunned - the beautiful piano melody washing over me (its doing so again this day). And even with five tracks from "Teaser" - if you think about brilliance like "If I Laugh" and "How Can I Tell You?" being absent - you could add the other five and still not have enough. "I Want To Live In A Wigwam" was always a dodgy B-side - but "Love Lives In The Sky" is a wonderful "Tillerman" outtake - simple, pretty and affecting. I nailed my first kiss dancing to "Moonshadow" - so she and it are seared into my (slightly battered) heart and immortalised in a poem I wrote called "Debs" which was published in the Eighties in a book called "Hard Lines 2" (oh dear).

Disc 3 is probably where people loose interest - but they shouldn't because again its chock full of choice picks. The superb instrumental "Crab Dance" has long been absent from CD for Cat Stevens fans - so it's a properly great opener. Fans will notice that the acoustic masterpiece "The Boy With A Moon And A Star On His Head" from "Bull" is AWOL (mores the pity) but the fantastic groove of acoustic and synth of "Angelsea" makes up for it. But for me the unsung masterpiece in his entire canon of work is "The Foreigner Suite" that took up the whole of Side 1 and weighed in at a whopping 18-minutes. It was essentially three songs linked together with musical interludes and it's going to be great surprise to those to stopped buying his albums after 1972. It's commonly thought that Stevens was running on empty almost from "Numbers" onwards - yet when you cherry pick the goodies out - the tracks here tell a different story. Stuff like "Sun/C79", "Majik Of Majiks" and the lovely instrumental "Whistlestar" are full of great melody and clever funky breaks. I can live without hearing "Schoolyard" or "Another Saturday Night" even again - but tunes like "Child For A Day" and "Never" show some of that early Seventies magic - lovely songs.

Amongst the Previously Unreleased - the properly recorded cover of Fats Domino's "Blue Monday" is shockingly good - his voice suiting the R'n'B classic far better than you would think. Fans will appreciate having the "Doves" B-side on CD at last - it feels like one of the funky piano stretches in the middle of "Foreigner Suite" - a cool little instrumental. His voice is in fantastic form for the three live takes of "Hard Headed Woman", "Tuesday's Dead" and Catch Bull At Four's "Ruins" recorded in 1978 (you can hear the crowd loving it) - his female backing singers adding a lot to the power of the performance.

For most a 2CD set like "Gold" will probably suffice - but this 4-disc retrospective is a winner on all the right fronts - sound, song choice, listener surprises and beautiful presentation.

"I left my happy home to see what I could find out..." - Cat Stevens sang on the gorgeous "On The Road To Find Out". Take time out to fill your mind with this journeyman's musical and spiritual travels...

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